Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Thom Yorke - The Eraser

So, apparently, this guy Thom Yorke is in Radiohead. Who knew? And Radiohead are a group from England who, at the moment, are vying for “Greatest Rock Band in the World”, even though they haven’t released an album since 2003’s Hail to the Thief. Also, as anyone who reads Rolling Stone can tell you, Radiohead killed rock n’ roll sometime around the release of Kid A, so, obviously, there can be no “Greatest Rock Band in the World” anymore. Duh.
While Thom is, indeed, still gainfully employed by Radiohead, he decided that it was also time to step out on his own. Actually, that’s not completely accurate. After their extensive tour in support of Hail to the Thief, all of the members were completely wiped out, and they decided it was best if they just took a break for a while. After all, they all had their own lives, and Yorke had just recently welcomed his firstborn son into the world.
During this downtime, Yorke found himself messing around on his laptop. Chopping up bit of songs, looping them, setting them to beats…and so on and so forth. Pretty much no different from what half of the world is currently doing in their own spare time. But the difference between them and Thom Yorke is that he is Thom Yorke and they are not.
But even a genius needs help, so he called longtime Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich (who has also worked with Beck, Paul McCartney, Pavement, Travis…you know, pretty much everybody and their mother) to help him put his stuff together. They sat down together, messed around a bit more, got some direction, wrote song lyrics, and….boom. Solo album, finished.
At first listen, it comes off as a bit boring. All skittering beats, chord stabs, and the blips n’ bloops that turned a lot of people off to Kid A and Amnesiac…only there’s more of them here. Everywhere you look there's another slew of computer blips coming your way. There are also not many highs and lows here. Even on “boring old Kid A” (not my words) you had the crazy building horns and in-your-face-bass of “The National Anthem” right before the droning “How to Disappear Completely”. Mountains and valleys…of sound, anyway. And that’s not present on this album. Song to song pretty much stays the same. There are not even really any changes within the songs themselves. They start in a general direction, and they end in that same direction. A little bit of building here or there, but not enough to really give you the sense that he was trying anything different with the songs.
But then you listen to it again. And again. And again. I think it took me a grand total of 4 listens to get to like it and 7 listens before I really started to love it. Even now as I listen to it I find myself loving it more.
And I realize what it is. First of all, his voice is much more up in the mix here than it is on any Radiohead CD. He has such a unique and gorgeous voice that it’s nice to see it getting the recognition that it deserves. They also didn’t use any effects on his voice, which is also a huge difference from his work with Radiohead. Second of all, he does such a great job with the sound of this album. To borrow a term from Eno, Yorke definitely creates his own vast soundscapes on this album. Behind the blips n’ bloops there’s always something going on. Perhaps it’s just more blips n’ bloops…but they’re different. There’s an air of hugeness and sound to this album. To me, the best time to listen to this album is driving in the rain. As the rain beats down on the car, I turn this album up, and the sound fills up the entire car. There are very few albums that I can actually do that with, but I’m glad that I’ve found another one.
In short, if you’re looking for a Radiohead album, you’re going to be disappointed (although you will hear some of their work throughout the album in the form of various loops). This album was never meant to be another Radiohead album. But, if you’re looking for a great album from a great artist, definitely check this out.

Rating: 8.8

Essential Tracks: “The Eraser”, “The Clock”, “Skip Divided”

Favorite Tracks: “Atoms for Peace”, “Cymbal Rush”

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